When Churchmen Become Apparatchiks

What happens when Christianity meets government tyranny? Does a Christian have to fall into line? What happens when a Christian warrior meets Covid-inspired tyranny? In that case, in the Australian state of New South Wales, tyranny wins.

Back in September 2020, Gladys Berejiklian, then premier of New South Wales, ordained that us churchgoers could worship again, provided we observed social distancing rules and refrained from hymn singing. Subsequently, we’ve been locked out entirely. That’s by the way.

The lesson of the day at my Anglican church was taken from St Paul’s letter to the Romans (13:1-5). The message conveyed by the minister, and certainly received by the congregation, was unmistakable in the circumstances. Disobeying the rules was not just a rebellion against the diktats of Ms Berejiklian but against God’s wishes.

"Leadership": former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

When Jeff Sessions was Attorney General, and under attack, rightly or wrongly, for separating families who had illegally crossed the southern border, he also invoked the bible: “I would cite you the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” Sessions, a United Methodist, was no doubt taking a lead from the teachings of his church.

It’s a common enough refrain from churchmen. They construe parts of the New Testament, Titus (3:1-2), Hebrews (13:17), 1 Peter (2:13-14); but, principally, Romans 13, as an instruction to obey the law whatever is the character of the law. It’s nonsense; both theologically and as a matter of common sense.

The passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans begins, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” But instructively, it ends by referring to the need to submit to the authorities as being “a matter of conscience.” Conscience is surely a manifestation of God’s law within us. To a Christian, what else is it? And Peter and his fellow apostles (in Acts 5:29) make the position clear: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

The Old Testament has numbers of confirmatory examples. For example, the midwives (in Exodus 1:15-17) disobeying Pharaoh by delivering Jewish male babies alive. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (in Daniel 3 :12-18) refusing to bow before King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol.

As for common sense, are we to believe that brave Christian families should have obeyed the law and handed in Jewish families to the Gestapo rather than hide them? Other examples abound which test the supposed biblical rule of needing to obey the law and find it wanting. Thus, there is no rule. Laws and their prosecution are no more above disdain than are other spheres of human action.

Martin Luther King Jr. put it well in his letter to white clergymen, written from Birmingham Jail on 16 April 1963:

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law…One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

Leadership.

A tyrannous law can be flouted in good conscience. And nowhere is the Covid-inspired tyranny more evident than it is in Australia. Unlike America and Europe, we have no islands of reason. No Florida; no Sweden. Everyone is onboard. There’s no political opposition; no media opposition. Governments easily get away with senseless restrictions on liberty. The police, their vassals, get away with thuggery, as we have seen most evidently and most disgustingly in Melbourne.

Much touted. Monday October 11. Freedom Day in NSW. I walk past my local pub in a suburb of Sydney. See crowds of youngish people through the doors and windows. None by the look of them at risk from Covid yet all, I know, are fully vaccinated. Part of the in-crowd. Alas, on the outer, I walk on.

I receive an email from my city club. “Welcome back,” it says. “I’m not welcome back at all.” I reply, sullenly.

Have coffee at my local café on so-called “Freedom Day.” My credentials unchecked, I daringly break the law by sitting and ordering a coffee. As a cautionary step, as a lawbreaker, I order my coffee in a takeaway cup and sit at an outside table so that I can quickly move off should the cops come around. Want to avoid a $1,000 fine (yes, that’s three zeros). That was yesterday. Today, I’m moved on. No longer welcome. No seat for me. So, this is what apartheid is like.

It comes to this. Infected people who are vaccinated are free to mingle and infect others. Uninfected, unvaccinated, people who pose no risk to others are barred from mingling. This is probably illegal, offending Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act 1992. It is illogical. And it is, most certainly, unconscionable and may well be in breach of the Nuremberg Code.

There was a reason for this, you know.

Circumstances affect cases. It’s been said often. It bears repeating. Covid presents no serious risk to healthy people. The vaccines are experimental in so far as they have not undergone five to ten years of clinical trials. They are leaky. They do not sterilize the virus. Those vaccinated still catch the virus and pass it on. The effectiveness of the vaccines in preventing serious illness quickly wanes.

On what proper basis then is there justification for the momentous step of making and prosecuting laws (diktats) which discriminately deny inalienable rights to those who make a personal decision not to get vaccinated? I can’t think of one. To me it is tyranny pure and simple.

Cometh the Christian warrior, the new state premier of NSW, Dominic Perrottet. He’s a self-proclaimed conservative; a Catholic; and a family man with six children. He’d previously expressed opposition to vaccine passports. Yet, he is the first to introduce them in Australia. Sure, he just followed the plan laid down by his predecessor Ms Berejiklian, who resigned under a cloud. But he could have stopped it. He didn’t. Tyranny prevailed.

Like Perrottet, I’m a Christian; and usually law abiding. But I have no respect for the diktats which rule my life in Sydney. I disobey the law when I think I can get away with it. My only concern is to avoid being caught and fined. I suffer no moral compunction, no pangs of conscience. I am, for the moment, a free man.